Young Adult Novels


I’ve been totally slacking on reading young adult (YA) novels lately, so I’m trying to rectify that! Here’s what I’ve read recently…

–Marissa

Whisper to Me by Nick Lake was not at all what I thought it was going to be. I expected a sweet summer romance on the boardwalk, but this is… much darker. Mental illness, family tensions, quirky romance and how we find ourselves make up this weighty novel. I couldn’t stop reading it, once I rejiggered my expectations of it!

Looking for Group by Alexis Hall is not strictly a young adult novel, but I think has great crossover appeal. Drew (a 19-year-old university student) is hugely involved with a MMORPG, and has just joined a new guild. Through the game, he starts to fall for another player… only to realize it’s a guy, not a girl behind the keyboard. What follows is a sweetly romantic novel with lots of gaming nerdism, snappy dialogue, and a happy ending. I absolutely loved it!

Wandering Wild by Jessica Taylor was a zippy read… Tal is a Wanderer, who, along with her beloved brother, are part of a group of modern gypsies. When they stop in a small town, she falls for a local boy. But are they destined to be together or ripped apart by choices beyond their control? I dug it!

I’ve also been reading more non-YA novels as well, such as… Leave Me by Gayle Forman (a YA author’s first foray into adult fiction), Meternity by Meghann Foye (fun!), Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (it just made me HAPPY), and Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin, which was just such a dandy, sweet romance novel.

Sooo Many New Books!


I’ve been on a reading tear lately – and I’ve been TOTALLY remiss in blogging all my reviews. So here we go… a great big, gigantic reading roundup of ALL the new books I’ve read lately! Let’s go!

–Marissa

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood basically ruined me for other books for like a week. It was SO good, y’all. SO good…but it isn’t for everyone. Wavy is a little girl growing up in abject, horrid circumstances, and the only ally she has in the world is a tattooed bike named Kellan. Their evolution as two people is just dark and beautiful and amazing and un-put-down-able. Definitely one of my favorite – if not my favorite – book of the year.

Mischling by Affinity Konar is a tough read, but an important one. Stasha and Pearl are twin girls of mixed heritage – known as “mischling” – who are made a part of Dr. Mengele’s zoo in Auschwitz. This harrowing novel is about their survival, their bond, and the aftermath of the Holocaust. You’ll see this one on a LOT of “best of” lists…

The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne is the third in Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series, and she is rapidly becoming one of my favorite historical romance authors (right up there with Tessa Dare, Eloisa James and Sarah MacLean!). I love her flawed characters, her emotional writing, her witty moments and her happily-ever-afters. I dug this one as much as the others!

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells pulled me in and didn’t let go until the last page. Avery is a normal 19-year-old student on her college swim team, on her way home for the holidays. But when the plane crashes in the Rockies with few survivors, we are taken on a back-and-forth journey between what happened in the wilderness… and what happened after. I couldn’t stop reading this one! So good!

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue is an upcoming release, and takes place in 1850s Ireland. Anna is a young girl who has apparently lived, for FOUR MONTHS, without any food. Religious miracle or hoax? English Nurse Lib is assigned to watch the girl and try to solve the mystery, but gets entangled in the story herself. A different, but compelling, read!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is just a dandy suspense novel that took no time to start and finish! Lo is a journalist assigned to be a passenger on a new luxury yacht for her travel magazine, but the first night on board, she hears a splash – and sees a woman drop into the sea below. But the next day she finds… no one was assigned to that cabin. Dun, duh, DUN! A good summer page-turner!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is another quick suspense novel. A dinner party goes terribly wrong when a crime is committed right under the nose of Anne and Marco Conti. But who is to blame? This one shifts suspicion left and right until you reach the finale!

The Sixth Idea by PJ Tracy is the latest in the “Monkeewrench” series from mother-and-daughter writing duo Tracy, and is another great addition to the series about crime solving and technogeekdom. Be sure to start with Monkeewrench – it’s great!

Siracusa by Delia Ephron has been everywhere this summer. Two couples (and the daughter of one of them) travel to Italy for a vacation, and let’s just say these two couples have no business vacationing together.😉 Betrayals, mysteries, martial woes and romance all weave together tighter and tighter until the shocking finale. I wanted to love this more than I did, but it was still a speedy summer read!

I also read Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (it was small and strange and weird) as well as All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (took me a bit to get into it, but then it was a page turner!). What have you been reading lately, friends?

 

Rainy Reads


It’s been raining here in the Hoosier State – a LOT.

Normally, this would be the perfect excuse for me to read a book (or two, or three) but somehow life keeps getting in the way! In any case, I have notched a few more titles lately…

–Marissa

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Anymore) by Hadley Freeman was just…superfantastic. Funny, insightful, and filled with references to some of my favorite movies (the author and I are…of a similar age, shall we say), I just enjoyed every page. But, more than that, I learned a lot, and really took a closer look at today’s cinema (since I am DEFINITELY fatigued by the constant barrage of nothing-but-superhero-or-action films). If you were a kid of the 80s – or appreciate the throwback movies that era – this is definitely the book for you!

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a lovely novel. From the author of The Mistress of Spices (another great read), this is a multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters in an Indian family, and how they are woven together. Told out of chronological order, the reader has to put together the timeline of what brought them close – and what torn them apart. Divakaruni’s writing is lovely and evocative, and this was just such a satisfying read. If you love multicultural women’s fiction, this is a great addition to your TBR stack.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is her followup to the smash hit The Vacationers, and is again a glimpse into the marriages – and lives – of couples “of a certain age”, and how they are tied together. Elizabeth and Andrew (married with a son) and Zoe used to be in a band. Zoe and her wife Jane have a daughter – so what happens when the son and daughter begin to see each other? Chaos, mostly. Another sharp look at modern relationships and how we evolve over twenty years of knowing each other.

I also listened to the audio version of Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. I will say…not one of his strongest works. One dimensional characters, and a pretty clunky plot. Hey, it happens. I also read The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries – a good Regency romance! It dealt with little-discussed issues in that genre, so I appreciated the different plot it brought to the table.

Summer is Flying By…

And how has your summer been, lovely readers? It seems impossible that it’s already July, and yet, here we are! Johnna has been ridiculously busy with school, her job and her family, so I’ve been trying hold down the fort here on the blog until she’s got time on her side again! In the meantime, here’s how my summer has been going, how about yours?

I’ve been…growing flowers…enduring summer stories…cooking…reading (and eating!)…welcoming visitors to my porch (hello, Mr. Froggy!)…turning back into a redhead…celebrating the 4th of July with Johnna (aren’t these glasses she got us a kick?!)…and appreciating the kind of friends who bust your dog out of puppy jail (uh, the kennel) while you’re gone (thanks, Johnna and Scott!)

–Marissa

All Byyyyy Myseeeelllllffff….

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Other than a cabin for a couple of days all alone, I’ve never gone on vacation solo.

I’ve never been opposed to it since I’m comfortable with my own company, but it’s always nice to have a buddy along, yeah?

But recently, the opportunity presented itself for an only-me vacation, and y’all…it was the BEST THING EVER.

If you are going to vacation alone, I highly recommend…Disneyworld. *grin*

I had to be in Orlando for a work conference, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to spend a few days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot just because I was alone, so off I went!

I opted to do the “all in one” thing – Disney resort, food package, transportation and tickets – which made it super easy, and with the help of Uber, I was able to zip from conference hotel to “vacation” hotel in a snap!

I spent a couple of days at Magic Kingdom and one at Epcot, and y’all, it was AMAZING.

I rode whatever I wanted to ride, I ate when and what I wanted, I rested when I needed, I popped back to the hotel if I felt like it, I got a henna tattoo for the hell of it, and while I was waiting in line? I read a book.

(Bliss!)

No one made me feel like a doofus for being there alone, and I even got to line jump a few times as a single rider! Lots of folks struck up conversation with me, I had room to spread out on the rides, I requested the front seat on Space Mountain (because, uh, it’s the best, and I was a single rider!), and every employee just smiled when I said “one” to their “how many?” instead of looking at me like I was some friendless spinster. *grin*

Such a great holiday!

40th Birthday Celebration

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So, I had a milestone of a birthday back in May – and to be honest, I was having a hard time with it.

40.

It sounds so adult and grown up and like you should have your act together, right?

(I don’t.)

Johnna knew I was struggling with my impending birthday, and so, doing what she does best, she turned it from something to dread to a memory I’ll remember my entire life.

She threw me a surprise party, complete with all my “framily” from near and far – everyone from college friends to TinyTown friends to my bestie (and her mum!) since I was four years old, all gathered together in one place.

It was…magic.

Seeing all my people talk and laugh and figure out who was who made my heart so happy.

Johnna also let me mark something off my bucket list (the list is a post for another day!)…having a “pop up dinner” by candlelight outside…

Truly magic.

Gorgeous flowers, a beautiful cake, hilarious games, gifts and memories, dinner and conversation with all my favorite people…truly a glorious surprise.

I’m a lucky sausage indeed.

–Marissa

Women’s Fiction Reads


I’ve been on a reading tear lately, with a mix of advanced titles from my recent library convention, an updated take on Shakespeare, and a discussion-worthy title for my book discussion. Let’s go!

–Marissa

Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown was just…immensely satisfying. I adored Brown’s first title, The Weird Sisters, so I was eager to snap this advanced copy up at ALA, and it did not disappoint. This tells parallel stories – Madeleine’s marriage is strained, so she returns home, and in so doing, finds journals belonging to her grandmother. The journals Margie left behind are from her time spent in Paris in 1924, where she found love, art, independence and freedom. So how did she end up the grandmother Madeleine remembered? I love the alternating time periods and voices, and Brown’s prose is just lovely and cozy and embracing. I devoured this novel, utterly transported to lovely, enchanting Paris. Highly recommended!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah continued the French theme, and was our recent pick for our library book discussion – and we had a LOT to discuss! Isabelle and Vianne are French sisters who are caught up in World War II in very different ways – one as a rescuer of downed airmen, and the other as a mother trapped in a house billeted by a Nazi officer. There is SO MUCH in this book that makes you think, empathize, cringe, rejoice and devour – we had a lively discussion, and the consensus was that everyone LOVED this book. If you love a smart, woman-driven historical novel, definitely check this one out!

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is the latest entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, where modern superstar authors are adapting a Shakespearean play into today – and Tyler chose Taming the Shrew. This slim novel is full of snappy sarcasm, engaging characters, and echoes of the original play without being too literal. Great fun!

I also got an advanced copy of Falling by Jane Green, and it’s…disappointing. I normally like Green’s work, but this romance is a bit…recycled. I feel like it’s been cobbled together from every other trite romance out there, and not very well. I really struggled just to finish it. Bummer.:-/